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Time Registration: A Key Component of Project Management

When you concentrate on a task of a project, hours can seem like minutes. And the other way around. Time registration is the only system to know how long your team actually worked. When done properly, it’s your best guarantee for a timely completion of projects. And that results in happy customers…

Table of contents

  1. What is time registration and why is it important for project management?

  2. How to implement time registration in your project management process?

  3. Tools and software to help with time registration

  4. How can time registration boost your company?

  5. Boost your project management with time registration now

What is time registration and why is it important for project management?

Time registration is the process of tracking the time spent on every single task of a project. This involves recording the time between the start and finish of a task. It’s equally important to track breaks and interruptions. 

Yes, you read it right. You also need to register the time in between working on a task of your project. 

This can make a huge difference between expectations and reality. 

Let’s assume you work on a web design project and estimate your team needs 24 hours in total to complete it. 

  • You promise the client to deliver your design on Thursday morning.

  • Your designer starts on Monday (3 days X 8 working hours, so that should be just in time)

Your calculation and planning look good on paper and in an email to your client. 

But in 99% of the cases, you won’t make it in due time. Why? 

The time needed to complete a task and planning or two different things. The ideal scenario belongs in utopia, where projects are always delivered on time and within the foreseen budget

In reality, however, there are many challenges along the road that can delay your project:

  • Unforeseen circumstances. An employee gets ill, for instance.

  • Delay of deliveries from suppliers. This can be goods, raw materials or services. 

  • Underestimating the complexity of tasks. Even experienced project managers make this mistake once in a while. 

  • The client changes his opinion. As a result, the requirements for the project alter and it becomes more complex. 

  • Etc.

Time registration is not a goal, but a means to an end

It cannot prevent all potential problems, but a proper time tracking system is the only way project managers can:

  • assign the tasks to people who have the expertise and who are available

  • identify bottlenecks

  • monitor progress 

  • ensure that tasks and milestones are completed on time 

  • and within budget

In summary: to keep a project on track, you need to be informed about the progress of all tasks at any time. 

Time registration also has a benefit for future projects. 

When you have a clear picture of how much time was worked on separate tasks and in total, you can make improvements to manage your next project more efficiently. 

All that sounds good and logical. 

Alas, when companies or teams implement a time registration system, they always experience doubt, confusion, and even rejection. 

And that’s normal.

Nobody wants to have the feeling of being watched by Big Brother.

The best you can do? 

Apply the following tips for a fluent introduction of a time registration system for project management.

How to implement time registration in your project management process?

Implementing time registration in your project management process can seem daunting. But it is easier when you follow the steps below. 

Step 1: Define why you want to implement time registration 

Besides smoother project management, you can also register time for other reasons. 

  • To get insights about the productivity of your team.

  • To put pressure on your team.

These are two different ends of the scale. And although your intentions may be noble at the beginning, time registration is risky.  

The moment businesses find out that this system is actually working, they get creative with all the data they are collecting.

Don’t make this mistake. 

Instead, define in advance why and how your business aims to benefit from implementing time registration

  • Will you use time tracking sheets as part of employee evaluations? 

  • Will team members be (financially or otherwise) rewarded if they complete tasks faster than they are supposed to?

  • Or will the reverse happen and will a poor performance have consequences? Which ones? 

  • Will your team start competing against each other? Or will the team spirit improve?

You must ask these questions and write down the answers. Not for your team, but for yourself as project manager or business owner. 

In addition, you can ask who, what, when, where, why and how to improve your project management.

Doing so will prevent a lot of trouble and misunderstandings later on. 

Step 2: Choose a time registration system that works for you 

There are many options to track time: from simple spreadsheets to more advanced software programs. 

Since you have thought about your needs in advance, you will be more focused during the search for the best possible time registration system for your business. 

Your research and trials will still take time. But this approach is better than picking a solution and hope it will live up to its promises. 

Step 3: Inform your team

Unless your team members clearly understand your goal of time registration, it’s doomed to fail the moment you implement it. 

Anything you do not explain explicitly can and will be interpreted in a way you didn’t intend.

So, be honest from the start. 

Inform your team members what you will and won’t do with the time sheets. 

The moment something goes not as planned, people will better understand your reaction.

  • Nice job! We delivered the project in time (Where is my bonus?)

  • Ouch, we are having a delay and won’t meet the next deadline. (I’d better start looking for another job).

Step 4: Train your team

It’s impossible to change work routines overnight. Time registration is a gigantic step. 

But it’s so easy to forget to start a timer before working on a task. The same goes for stopping a timer during interruptions, breaks, and at the finish line.

To ensure accurate time registration

  • Educate your team beforehand

  • Show them how the system works

  • Establish clear guidelines: how often should time be logged? (Every day, every task, or only for assigned project tasks?)

Step 5: Monitor time tracking as project manager

As a project manager, you need to practise what you preach. Leading by example, you know. 

  • Register your own time. This creates goodwill from your team members.

  • Understand how the system works. Make time (and stop your timer) when questions rise.

  • Don’t micromanage team members. If you estimate two hours to complete a task, don’t check if it is finished after 2 hours and 5 minutes. 

  • Review and analyse the data on a regular basis. Depending on the size of the project, that can be daily or weekly. 

  • Use the data to identify areas that need improvement. 

  • Talk with your team. Give them guidance and feedback on how they can increase their productivity.

  • Give people time to make time registration a habit. 

  • Dare to question time entries. If you notice something that looks odd, ask for a clarification. Maybe someone forgot to mark a task as completed. Or maybe your team members are more qualified than you had thought. 

PRO TIP: In CoManage, you can see the registered time for all your team members. 

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Regardless of the system you use, you know your team best. 

You also know how to make them feel at ease and how to motivate them. The tips above are guidelines. Adapt them to your situation and you will soon notice that time registration will make your job as project manager a lot easier.

Tools and software to help with time registration

There are tons of time registration tools. And there is a good reason for this. 

Time is money. Wasting time is losing money. 

But there is also a paradox when you use a time registration app that is not fit for you. It can cost you more time than help you save time. 

Again, the best solution is one that fits your needs. 

CoManage, for instance, is created for small businesses that don’t need all the bells and whistles of overpriced high-tech time tracking solutions. 

It also requires little to no training of your staff. 

Click on the timer.

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Choose the customer, project, phase and task.

customer-project-phase-task.png 

Mark if the hours are billable or not.

billable.png 

Start your timer.

start-timer.png 

When the project is finished, stop the timer. 

stop-timer.png 

The system automatically updates the status of the project and summarises the time worked on the separate tasks. 

statistics.png

For project managers of small teams, a user-friendly time registration system is all they actually need to monitor projects and deliver on time. 

Despite its simplicity, CoManage’s time tracking tool has some powerful features under the hood. 

It’s not a standalone app, but directly connected to your

Project Management tool

Time registration and project management in one tool, saves additional time. 

multiple-time-registrations.png

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

You can easily search for the customer who ordered the project. 

customer-dropdown.gif

Invoices

When you create an invoice, you can select the project and load the details with a click. 

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CoManage is the Swiss knife for small businesses 

Since you can manage your vital administration in one tool, you don’t need to buy, install, connect, or learn how to use different programs. 

How can time registration boost your company?

An often overlooked advantage of time registration is that it creates trust amongst customers. Of course, they need to be aware you are using a system and not just blind guessing how much time you have worked.

Tell your customers you track time because you respect their planning. 

When a milestone is approaching or finished, inform your customer. 

time-registration-status.png

Boost your project management with time registration now

Whether you are a beginner or thinking of switching your project management tool, CoManage has a built-in time registration tool. 

Click on the button below and find out if this is the right system for your team.

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